Doomsday Clock countdown to war

The Doomsday Clock invented by some scientists, nuclear and climate experts have constantly given us a reminder of how close we are to an apocalypse – a nuclear war – World War 3. The clock or countdown is a symbol of how the world will be doomed by man-made disasters and human-caused global catastrophes – that could have been eliminated, but we chose to do nothing about it.

The clock instigated by seven minutes to midnight on 1947, when the scientists discovered the urgency of nuclear weapons and wanted to convey the information to the public and all leaders around the world. It changed to three minutes on 1949 when the US decided to deter the Soviet Union for testing their first nuclear device – officially announcing the conflict between both states. The clock deducted one minute, getting closer to midnight (2 minutes) in 1953 when the US pronounced to pursue hydrogen bomb – testing their first thermonuclear weapon and Soviets tested their H-bomb – proclaiming war between the states and most closest the world have been for a nuclear war.

It was in 1960 that the nuclear countdown had a positive effect and rolled backwards, adding 5 minutes to the existing 2 minutes (now 7 minutes) when US and Soviet avoided direct confrontation because of the Middle-East regional disputes between Egypt and Israel. Furthermore, with additional peaceful resolutions, the clock rolled backwards further adding 5 minutes (clock remain at 12 minutes) when US and Soviet signed Partial Test Ban Treaty, bringing an end to all atmospheric nuclear testing and slowing the arms race signalling an act of cooperation to prevent nuclear conflicts in the future. However, this did not last for very long, as in 1968 the regional wars proliferated. US intervention in Vietnamese war, Pakistan – India battle, Israel – Arabs disputes created a conflicting international order, while France and China started developing its nuclear weapons as self-defense to deter aggressors. This anarchic international order lead to a reduction of 5 minutes, setting the countdown at 7 minutes to midnight. Another positive affect took place in 1969, when the world decided to come together and cooperate on Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty – 190 (later North Korea withdrew) members signing as parties to treaty to not acquire nuclear weapons, nuclear disarmament and accepting five nuclear weapons states (US, UK, France, China and Russia) in exchange for nuclear and energy technology and security. The clock added 2 minutes setting it 10 minutes to midnight.

This on-and-off setting of the clocked had a leap in 1991 when the Cold War ended and US and Russia began deep cuts in nuclear arsenals. The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty alleviated the reduction of nuclear arms deployed by both states, with further unilateral decisions to step away from nuclear arsenals. This increased the countdown setting the clock 17 minutes to midnight – the furthest duration to midnight the clock has ever remained.

Things turned around in 2007 when North Korea tested its nuclear weapons (withdrawing from NPT in 2003) against the International laws, norms and principles. This deterred US and Russia to immediately raise its self-defence for any nuclear attack and motivated Iran to develop nuclear weapons as Israel was already securing its parameters and raising its defence. These actions, along with the raising global threats of global warming, climate change and humanitarian crises decreased the countdown, setting the clock 5 minutes to midnight. Since then the clock has swayed between 5 to 3 minutes with the unsettling geopolitics and international order. 

In 2016, the science and security board of Doomsday clock forwarded the clock to 3 minutes, noting that catastrophe is closer with more states being prepared for nuclear attacks, increase risks of disaster and humanitarian crises, terrorism, climate change and global warming, calling out to world leaders and international community to act immediately – before we are doomed. However, with this strong impact, the clock has adjusted in 2017, with new emerging threats of nuclear weapons, emerging technologies, unsolved growing concerns about climate change and already threatening world situation of US President Donald Trump – his attitude and action towards proliferation of nuclear weapons (encouraging Japan and South Korea to acquire nuclear weapons), denial of climate change and man-made disasters and lack of conscience on humanitarian rights and security. The clock has set for 2 1/2 minutes to midnight – the closest it has been ever for Doomsday.

What we should learn from this is that the world is closer to calamity and this indicates the vulnerable situation we are in, if nothing is done. We either take this threat as an urgency to fight climate change, combat terrorism, discourage nuclear arsenals, unite and help human kind by protecting each other and providing safety and security – or we sit back and see how many years the clock remains still – if we remain alive.


  1. I grew up with the 1960’s and 1970’s version of the clock and it was strictly about the likelihood of nuclear war. I remember with absolute clarity one time when it lost a minute. I was in high school and I don’t remember the world event that caused the change, but I remember the fear, the tears, the desire to escape…
    For a while there, it seemed as if we were making some progress…

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